Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Search results for ‘A Face of Black Iron

Fantasy

The Boatman’s Cure

The dead man was a nail-biter, tucked up in the back seat with old theater magazines and a water-stained Baedeker of Malta, his free hand still nearly white-knuckled around the haft of his oar. All the way from the North Shore, he had complained about her music until Delia popped the tape with a sigh and a protesting click of plastic and stopped the radio on the same alternative station she had spent her first few years out of college waking up to, and they passed the last few miles on I-95 peaceably enough on the White Stripes and the Black Keys and the Decemberists.

Fantasy

The Commission of The Philosophical Alembic

A dirty little backstreet in London, bordered upon the east by Tottenham Court Road and upon the south by Oxford Street. A dirty little backstreet, shadowed and unfashionable, the walls darkened with unattended soot, the windows blinded with grime. It was home to the backs of restaurants on one side and the rears of glittering retail emporia upon the other, and little else but for a couple of residences, a pawnbroker, and a bookshop. The sign over the window read “Vesperine & Daughter. Dealers in Rare & Antique Books” and, while this was true, it was also somewhere short of the whole truth.

Science Fiction

Cake Baby (A Kango and Sharon Adventure)

Kango and Sharon first met at a party, one of those lavish debauch-fests where people fly in from all over the galaxy wearing sentient fetishwear that costs a whole asteroid belt. The specially grown building had melted, causing toxic fumes that killed a few hundred people, and then the canapés on the appetizer table came to life and started mutilating bystanders with their razor-sharp mandibles. The party was going according to plan, in other words. The only thing that nobody could have predicted, even the most OCD of the party-planners, was that two of the party’s minor entertainers ended up standing around near the Best Dressed Dead Guest lineup.

Science Fiction

Alice & Bob

Dear Bob — “Dear Bob.” I can’t believe I’ve written that. Did I ever think you’d read this letter? Dear Bob — Dear Bob!!! I’ve done it. I’m writing the letter. How are you? But I won’t know that, will I? Not until I read your letter. Don’t forget—put it where you found mine, between Asimov and Bester, fourth shelf up in the science fiction section of Cray Point’s library, just as we agreed. I’ll pick it up when I’m next through, I promise, and God willing, I’ll leave you another letter that day. Then we’ll swap letters, just like that couple in 84 Charing Cross Road, swapping our lives between the lines.

Fantasy

The Day the Wizards Came

The wizards appeared at 8:41 a.m. out of a cloudless blue sky. Dapper in their green plaid public school uniforms, they whooshed through the air on broomsticks, wands extended to defend against an incipient threat. In unison, they intoned a solemn chant. Their words burned bright sigils into the air which swirled and coalesced into a glittering white sphere of light. The light pulsed and flashed and shimmered. The crowd gathered on the ground below looked up. Some had noticed the wizards when they’d appeared and then dismissed them as some kind of publicity stunt

Science Fiction

Crossing the Midday Gate

Dan Linh had walked out of the Purple Forbidden City not expecting to return to it—thankful that the Empress had seen fit to spare her life; that she wasn’t walking to her execution for threefold treason. Twenty years later—after the nightmares had faded, after she was finally used to the diminished, eventless life on the Sixty-First Planet—she did come back, to find it unchanged: the Midday Gate towering over the moat; the sleek ballet of spaceships between the pagodas and the orbitals; the ambient sound of zithers and declaimed poetry slowly replacing the bustle of the city at their backs.

Fantasy

The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle

This story is at least a thousand years old. Its complete title is “The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle: It Contains Strange and Marvelous Things.” A single copy, probably produced in Egypt or Syria, survives in Istanbul; the first English translation appeared in 2015. This is not the right way to start a fairy tale, but it’s better than sitting here in silence waiting for Mahliya, who takes forever to get ready. She’s upstairs staining her cheeks with antimony, her lips with a lipstick called Black Sauce. Vainest crone in Cairo.

Fantasy

The Magician’s Apprentice

When she was thirteen, Mr. Hollis told her: “There’s never more than two, Cherry. The magician and the magician’s apprentice.” That was the first year, and she spent her time sloo-o-owly magicking water from one glass to another as he read the newspaper and drank the coffee. Magician’s apprentice had to get the Starbucks. Caramel macchiato, no foam, extra hot, which was a yuppie drink if you asked her (but nobody did). “Quarter in,” he’d say, and she’d concentrate on the liquid shivering from cup to cup. “Now half. Slower.”

Science Fiction

An Ever-Expanding Flash of Light

“Ladies and gentlemen, everyone you know—the entire world you know—is now dead.” Murmurs ripple through the assembled cadets. Not because they’re shocked—everyone knew what they were signing up for—but because it all happened without fanfare, a jump across light-years of space unaccompanied by any grand orchestral swell or roaring engine thrusts. The wiry guy with a shaved head standing next to Tone mutters, “Jesus, I didn’t even feel anything.”

Fantasy

Ink

The American boy, whose name was David, had always collected things. Coins, minerals, seashells, insects, and even house-brand bars of soap from hotels in his family’s travels. His collections helped him know who he was when so much of life did not; and the things he collected did not make him bleed, when so much of the world—the sharp, angular things of it—did. When you bought an old coin in a store, the coin didn’t bruise your skin or scratch your fingers.